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Columnist Lisa McLeod finds success in chaos

Lisa Earle McLeod vividly remembers being in third grade, reading "The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank" by Erma Bombeck and then writing a book report about the work.

"I got up and said, 'This was a really funny book, about all the dumb things our moms do and why they do them,'" McLeod said. "I didn't really understand the book like I do now, but I knew it was fabulous. I knew Erma Bombeck was just fabulous."

McLeod knew she felt something powerful from reading the book, but she didn't know this book would become a springboard, and Bombeck an inspiration, for her career later in life.

Despite McLeod's passion for Bombeck's work, when the book report assignment was returned to the third-grader, it was covered in red ink and marked with a less-than-desirable grade.

See, McLeod was not a prize student. She didn't make good grades, she didn't like to study and most of all, she didn't like writing. So it seems surprising that McLeod now makes her living as an author, having written two books - "Forget Perfect" was released in 2001 and her latest work, "Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear" hits bookshelves today. McLeod, a Snellville resident, also writes a weekly slice-of-life column for the Daily Post that is syndicated in newspapers across the country.

"I never liked writing when I was younger," she said. "But in hindsight, it seems like it's always been the right fit for me."

McLeod doesn't consider herself a writer so much as a translator, taking vague ideas and concepts from self-help gurus and spiritual leaders, and putting them into a language that everyday readers can understand.

"I read a lot of self-help works, but find that they are written by people who don't have two or three screaming kids and a thousand e-mails to check," McLeod said. "I feel like my plan in life is to take the words of these wise writers, and take the lives of nutty, normal people, and then knit them together in a funny and entertaining way."

In her newest book, McLeod does just that. A collection of humorous essays, the book offers advice on a score of life issues, from sex to parenting to TV. With a goal to help people find the meaning of life and be at peace with their inner selves, "Finding Grace" is based around 23 questions, including "Why can't peace be sexy?" and "Can Sponge Bob get you into Mensa?" Broken up in chapters and written in short segments, it's meant for people like her, who have the "attention span of a teensy fly," she said.

"It's a book you can read in the car pool line or in the bathroom," she said. "If you don't read it all in order, that's fine. If you don't ever finish it, you don't need to beat yourself up and feel bad about it."

Feeling bad about yourself would, in fact, defeat the purpose of the book. "Finding Grace" is all about accepting who you are, living your best life and ending the battle of self-comparison, she said.

"AA has this great expression - they have such great expressions. They say not to compare your insides to someone else's outsides," she said. "Perfect can be seen through two lenses. It's either the lens that makes you feel bad, where you don't measure up. Or it's the lens where you feel better because you aren't comparing yourself and you did the best you can do. I'm hoping these books will help people find that self-perfection and acceptance."

If you go

•What: Daily Post columnist Lisa Earle McLeod, author of "Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear," will discuss and sign her book at the Gwinnett Daily Post Women's Expo

•When: The Women's Expo runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 28 and noon to 5 p.m. April 29. McLeod will speak at 1:30 p.m. and sign her book from 2:30 to 4 p.m. April 28.

•Where: Gwinnett Center, 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth

•Cost: Admission is $6, and children 12 and under get in free.

•Info: Visit www.forgetperfect.com or

www.gdpwomensexpo.com.